Known for its organic produce, artisanal dairy, locally reared meat and the freshest of fish, it’s not a surprise that the West Country is home to some fine restaurants. Still, on a recent visit to Cornwall I was surprised to find not only an excellent restaurant, but an excellent Italian one. Appleton’s is tucked away down a lane on the way to the picturesque harbour town of Padstow. The setting, among fields of apple trees and vines at Trevibban Mill Vineyard & Orchards, provides visitors with the added benefits of a great view and an extremely local wine and cider list.
Appleton’s is the first restaurant by Andy Appleton, a self-taught chef who worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London before moving to Fifteen Cornwall, where he held the role of head chef for nine years. In 2016, Appleton took over the restaurant at Trevibban Mill, with his partner Lyndsey in charge of front of house.
The menu, which changes daily, draws inspiration from seasonal and sustainable Cornish produce, such as crab and red gurnard, locally reared duck and lamb, clotted cream and blue cheese. Herbs and vegetables come from the kitchen garden. Other sources of inspiration are Andy’s travels around Italy and his experiences working closely with Jamie Oliver. On my visit, the menu featured classic Italian ingredients such as sage and anchovies, ’nduja sausage and fregola sarda, Parmesan and ricotta cheese.
To begin, we ordered a selection of “crispy bits”: sage leaves stuffed with anchovies and fried in batter (£2.50) were delicious, and so were the perfectly fried Padstow zucchini flowers (£6.50).
Next came the starters, which thankfully my friends insisted on ordering when I had already decided to skip to the mains. Padstow crab (£14) is a must-try when in Cornwall and therefore regularly features on Appleton’s menu. The fresh burratina Pugliese served on a hazelnut cracker with bitter leaves and generous shavings of autumn truffle (£13) was the most indulgent dish of the evening. The house-cured barrel rump steak with figs, pickled beets and Parmesan stravecchio (£13) – was exquisite, but my favourite starter was the anolini, stuffed pasta from Parma with rabbit and black pudding, cooked in chicken broth (£13).
Typical mains include agnolotti (£20), squid ink linguine (£23) and dry-aged Denver steak (£24). The agnolotti – tiny squares of pasta, almost like mini-ravioli – came stuffed with smoked potato, baby gem lettuce and bee pollen. This was a superb dish and one I would happily eat over and over again. A glass of Trevibban Mill Black Ram Organic Red 2015 (£5 for 125ml), a lush and complex wine with aromas of blackberries, was the perfect accompaniment.
I didn’t have room for dessert, but on the day we visited you could finish with a Victoria plum and apple panna cotta (£7), a Frangelico butterscotch chocolate pot with hazelnut and ricotta cannoli (£7) or a selection of English cheeses (£9), including an interesting-sounding Keen’s Cheddar with gooseberry and nettle relish.
“Non si vive di solo pane” is a popular Italian saying that Appleton’s has adopted as its restaurant philosophy. “One cannot live by bread alone” – and when food is as good as it is here, why would you?
Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London, who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with the @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.